A senior printmaker inspired by science
In her spare time, Anna Leavitt ’12 perfects her technique in the printmaking studio in the attic of Bixler.
As an environmental science major, printmaker Anna Leavitt ’12 of Holliston, Mass. is not your typical art student.
“I grew up drawing—my mom’s an artist,” Leavitt said of her creative origins, but when she came to the Hill she wanted to try something new. “I didn’t really know anything about environmental science…but I always liked biology.”
During Leavitt’s first two years on the Hill, many of the courses she took for her major relied primarily on memorization. “They were interesting [classes], but I don’t learn that way,” she said. “I love environmental studies, but art gives me another perspective and allows me to explore the same issues creatively.” To help ease her fact-based course load, Leavitt has enrolled in an art class each semester. “It’s really relaxing to me,” she said, explaining that working with her hands helps her to relieve stress and test the limits of her imagination.
Leavitt cited the laid-back atmosphere of art classes on the Hill as “a nice break from bigger lecture-style classes,” she said. Leavitt has also benefitted greatly from close interactions with her art professors. “They really take an interest in the progress of each student,” she said. “If you show that you are interested in a certain artist or style, the professor will show up to the next class with at least 10 different books on that subject.”
While art began as her escape from science, Leavitt has found that the two, for her, are actually intertwined. “Environmentalism is usually the theme of my art,” she said, as she often turns to what she is studying in her science classes for subject matter. Last year, while writing a mock proposal for a research grant to study the evolution of whale songs, she found herself etching the bodies of humpback whales in her printmaking class. “I also just really love whales,” she laughed.
Last spring, Leavitt explored environmental art even further when she studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. “I had an hour-and-a-half commute to one of my classes,” Leavitt said, “and along the way I’d take pictures that would turn into art projects.” This habit resulted in Leavitt doing a series of prints based on pictures she took of trees growing along sidewalks that were covered in trash.
In Argentina, Leavitt took three art classes: a glass workshop and a printmaking class at the Instituto Universitario Nacional de Artes, and a figure drawing class at a cultural center.
All of Leavitt’s classes were taught entirely in Spanish, but that did not hinder her drive. “I felt really comfortable, even though I was totally out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I’d never taken a figure drawing class before, let alone in a different language.”
While Leavitt, like so many other students who have studied abroad, said that her experience in Argentina helped her develop independence and a greater understanding of other cultures, it also helped her develop as an artist. “It was really cool to be enrolled at an art university because everyone there was so into what they did,” she said. “At Colby, art has always been something I like to do on the side, but in Argentina it was my main focus academically.”
Back on the Hill, Leavitt regrets that in order to complete all of the courses she needs for her major, she probably won’t have time to take an art class this year. “But I’m doing more [art] than I ever have on my own,” she said. She recently joined the pottery club, and she hopes to find a nearby glass studio that will let her use their oven.
“I’m not going to be a painter or a printmaker,” Leavitt said, “but art will always be a part of my life. I want to make all the windows in my house out of stained glass.”